Saturday, 13 October 2012

Synapse science news #2

Too busy to keep track of all the science news during the week? Don’t fear Synapse is here. Check out this week's news.

Curious rock discovered on Mars - The Mars Curiosity rover has been hard at work. This week it discovered a rock with an exceptional composition, never before discovered on the planet. Read more here.

Billions needed to save nature - The world is currently going through a biodiversity crisis. At this week’s Convention on Biological Diversity scientists concluded that $76 billion dollars a year is required to reduce the risk of extinction for threatened species, by establishing protected areas. Tough choices face policy makers. Is it worth it? What do you think? Find out more.

Failure to launch! - On Tuesday (9/10/2012) Austrian adventurer Felix Baumgartner prepared to go supersonic and travel faster than sound by skydiving from a helium balloon. Unfortunately, after entering his capsule and getting fully prepared the dive was cancelled due to high winds. A second attempt was planned for Thursday, but this was also called off. The balloon carrying Baumgartner plans to travel to 120,000ft (36.5km), making it the highest skydive ever. A third attempt is likely to take place on Sunday (14/10/12). Keep up to date with the latest news on the mission here and read more about the mission here. 

Nobel Prize winner was written off at school - John Gurdon always wanted to be a scientist but his school master said this was ‘quite ridiculous’ and a 'sheer waste of time'. This week, the now ‘Sir’ John Gurdon, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine for his work proving that adult cells can be reprogramed and grown into different tissues in the body. I guess teachers are not always correct! Read more here.

The diamond planet - A new rocky planet has been discovered. Scientists believe it is similar to Earth, but with one major difference; this planet’s outer crust is largely composed of solid carbon crystals, meaning much of its surface is coated in diamonds! The diamond planet is orbiting a distant star named 55 Cancri, around 40 light years away from Earth. Read more here.

David Blaine does Tesla proud - OK it’s not really science, but this week American illusionist David Blaine spent 72 hours channeling one million volts of electricity while wearing a 20-pound chain-mail suit. Check it out.

The most unpleasant sounds - Scientists have identified the most unpleasant sounds for the human auditory system. Can you guess any? Well here are a few from the top 10: chalk on a blackboard, fork on a glass and a female scream. Check the full list here. When we hear sounds such as these there are increased interactions between the brain region that processes sound, the auditory cortex, and the amygdala, that relates negative emotions.

Eco-Friendly Optics - Spider silk is an extraordinary natural material. Now it is believed it could be used to catch and manipulate light, making it an eco-friendly alternative to more traditional ways of manipulating light, such as through glass or plastic fiber optic cables. Read more.

Tom Stubbs and Felicity Russell